By Bukola Saraki
You are welcome to the Summit on National Security, a 2-Day dialogue convened as a matter of national urgency. We are here because, in the face of escalating threats to the peace and security of our dear country, it becomes necessary to put heads together, share ideas and map out strategies to see us out of the current predicament.
The coming together of the Executive and Legislative arms of government for this discussion about security, is a pointer to the seriousness of the situation, and our determination to tackle the problem. The Summit is also unique, because never before have we had such an inclusive platform for appraising security-related matters in this country.
If I may provide some background: it will be recalled that the Senate had, on 30th of November 2017, inaugurated the Ad-Hoc Committee on Review of Security Infrastructure in the Country. This came about, because we were increasingly concerned at the spate of crises and insecurity in many parts of the country, and knew that we needed to do something about it. The Committee had a broad mandate; to look into the problem and prepare a report outlining a different approach for dealing with the issue.
The spike in the bloodletting over the New Year period injected another note of urgency into the matter, and further served to augment the mandate of the Committee, whose members suspended their recess to conduct a fact-finding visit to Benue State, scene of one of the recent killings. From that visit on 12th January 2018, the Committee had a report ready for the Senate upon resumption on 16th January. It was on the back of that, that we passed the Resolution to organise this Summit – to review the entire security architecture of the country. I would like to thank the members of the Committee – Chaired by Senate Leader, Distinguished Senator Ahmed Lawan – for their hard work and commitment to this national assignment, and the expedient manner in which they discharged their functions.
The sharp increase in murderous violence, over and above the relatively manageable level of insecurity that has plagued our country for some time, jolted us out any last vestiges of complacency or denial. There can be no denying the horrific reality in many parts of our country today. People who should be neighbours are turning on one another and taking up arms. These attacks and reprisal attacks are an intolerable cycle of hell that must be broken. Killings, kidnappings, mayhem and general lawlessness cannot be the new normal. We must take this country back and restore order.
To this end, the Summit brings together a wide spectrum of stakeholders including: political leaders; security policy makers; Governors – who are Chief Security Officers in their states; security and intelligence chiefs; key persons in the nation’s security architecture; regional and socio-cultural groups; traditional rulers; civil society organisations (CSOs) and others with strong, persuasive insights into the problem.
It was envisaged that the Summit would provide a platform for critically examining the problem of insecurity, to help collate views and ideas in aid of the search for solutions. It is most reassuring to see us all here – people together – coming together to come up with a national response to a grave problem confronting our nation.
To the Executive, I say this: you cannot do it alone – and this is why we are all here to join efforts. It is all hands on deck. No one person, organisation or arm of government can single-handedly tackle the hydra-headed monster of insecurity. The Constitution makes it clear that the safety of lives and property of citizens is the responsibility of government. We in government must therefore do everything in our power to ensure that Nigerians are safe from harm, and their livelihoods and belongings protected.
Permit me to observe that those who are in this room have the capacity to bring about a change in this situation, to end the violence and bring succour. We have the capacity. But, do we have the political will? I daresay political will is what is required; and it is my hope that we shall marshal it as a legitimate instrument against this problem. Indeed, there is no reason why that should not be the case. This is not a Summit to trade blames – in no way is this a blame game. Neither is it convened so that any person or entity can take credit. We just want solutions. Solutions only. That is all Nigerians require of us.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is expected that at the end of our deliberations and submissions, we will have a more profound understanding of the nature of the crisis; as well as a realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of our security assets. We should also have a more accurate assessment of challenges to the current disposition of the Nigerian state – through the level of preparedness of all its law and order agencies to security threats.
Let me add that this Summit should help us achieve some consensus around what needs to be done, in the short term as well as in the long term, to bring comfort and relief to those affected, and assurances of security throughout the country.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we would have failed in our responsibility if – by the end of this Summit – we didn’t succeed in triggering higher levels of collaboration and cooperation among all stakeholders, of a character that can be sustained and placed at the service of the nation. This spirit of collaboration and cooperation is, therefore, key.
The Summit programme has been designed to allow full and unfettered discussion. All participants are therefore encouraged to be forthright in expressing their views, and show commitment to the need for solution. Let me reiterate that we are not here to indict anybody. This is not an indictment, it is not to lay blame or point fingers, and it is not to take credit for what goes well. This process is very much solutions-driven. In order for us to ameliorate the current difficulties, therefore, it is important that people speak frankly.
In that vein, let me say to those who will make contributions during the sessions: please, do not be on the defensive. Nobody is on trial here. Let us make our submissions with openness, in good faith and with an attitude that is forward-looking. When all is said and done, this is a worthy exercise, for the good of Nigeria, and we should all strive to do our best, – and that work begins at this Summit.
What our country needs at this time is leadership that will work to douse the flames and reduce tension in the land. It is essential that we lower the barriers in our actions and rhetoric, and refrain from playing politics with a crisis situation in which Nigerian lives are being lost, tragically and needlessly, on a regular basis.
Let me extend our deepest gratitude to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his and the Executive’s support towards the convening of this Summit. Appreciation also goes to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, for the cooperation that brought the entire 8th National Assembly on board for this Summit.
The kind of collaborative and joined-up working that should be an example to Nigerians, is already on display here; and it is hoped that we shall use this as a springboard for the success of this Summit, the outcome of which must be such as can feed into the search for a solution.
Saraki, President of the Senate, delivered this address at the Security Summit convened by the Senate on Thursday
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Author: Bureau Lead